The Kindness of the Eel


Published 1st June 2020

Winner of the 2019 New Poets Prize judged by Mary Jean Chan

Whether they’re inside the mind an Irish Giant’s skeleton, listening to The Last Cassette Player in the World or opening a Yugoslavian family photo album, these poems echo with stories and memories and sing with voices from the past. Tender, thought-provoking perspectives are interspersed with unexpected and absorbing vignettes, creating an imaginative collection which plays expertly with structure, perception and the poetic form to both challenge and entertain the reader.


Read a Sample


What Writers and Critics Think

  • This is a wonderfully eclectic collection that draws its inspiration from sources at once historical and contemporary. Dramatic monologues, knee plays and intertextual responses to other poets are juxtaposed with lyric poems that constantly surprise and delight like ‘a surreal fruit.’

    Mary Jean Chan
  • A fresh and original poetic voice – full of wit, twists, surprises, echoes and challenges.

    Alan Rusbridger
  • Ben Ray’s new poems have the gleam and muscle of the river fish he writes about with such feeling. They are story-telling, risk-taking and exact in all the right ways.

    Fiona Sampson


If read and taken seriously, The Kindness of the Eel will be a gift which will redound, ultimately, to the benefit of future generations. It is in this that poetic writing bearing, alongside its profound tenderness, such dark recesses can still produce a strange sense of uplift, of encouragement, of having been granted some unexpected glimpses of both our lesser and our better selves. This, in the end, is the magic that lies at the heart of the poetry of Ben Ray. – P.W. Bridgman, London Grip

These poems reveal a canny understanding of life and language – and the landscapes that give rise to them. Ben has built a fascinating ‘future library of shades’ which will haunt the reader long after the book has closed.Nancy Campbell, 2018 Canal Poet Laureate

A raw and intimate collection that moves with tenderness and humour through politics and war, land and love. Ben Ray has a unique ability to look at the complexities of the human experience with precision and distance, intimacy and removal, creating something that seems to both expand and enclose the human heart. – Rebecca Tantony

Here is a wide-ranging and distinctive poet who has already marked out his territory – a writer to watch.Jonathan Edwards, winner of the 2014 Costa Book Award for Poetry

“Exceeding already high expectations, Ben’s winning pamphlet is a treasure trove of niche historical detail woven together so superbly you come out of it with a much tighter-knit sense of community that spans across the entire European continent. ‘Interview with Female Members of the Solidarność Movement’ is a profound poem, tying five women’s experience of communist Poland into one cogently unified ‘voice of Solidarity!’. It is a linguistic achievement of the highest order that strengthens the poem’s narrative, a deft skill that defines Ben’s range and breadth of poetical expertise … Each and every poem is a genuine delight and deserving of the prize. You can read my review of Ben’s previous pamphlet to get a further glimpse of his work, a lot of which is contained in this pamphlet also, but the additional poems in this work is absolutely worth getting a hold of. Ben is a very exciting poet and I’m eager to see what he has in store next time around.” – Foxtrot Uniform magazine (read full review here)


Ben Ray has released two full collections (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2019 & 2016) and has work in various anthologies (Seren Books 2019) and literary journals. He has been longlisted in various awards such as the 2019 National Poetry Competition and has performed at literary festivals and events across the UK. He recently presented his paper ‘Poetry & Climate Change’ at the 2019 World Youth Forum and has performed a run of one-man poetry shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where he slept on the floors of various audience members.



Additional information

Weight 0.067 kg
Dimensions 21 × 14.8 × 0.6 cm




Publication Year